Nitin Sawney — Migration. Brief story behind the album

George Palladev 30.03.2022

Nitin Sawney — Migration. Brief story behind the album

Nitin Sawney: “Migration was essentially about journey and trying to find a way back to understanding my heritage. I grew up in a very white neighborhood. There were hardly any Asians. I had felt quite dissociated from my heritage growing up. I would come home, and it’d be a very different life. We would sing the Gayatri Mantra, but I had no connection to it. I didn’t really understand what it was, because no one was speaking to me in Hindi or Punjabi when I went to school. I didn’t really relate to many things. Gradually, it was a process of discovery of my own heritage and my own identity. I think music allowed me to do that. Although I grew up playing a lot of music, I also went and studied at Liverpool University. I qualified as an accountant. I was working as a financial controller of a hotel at one point. Then one day, I just walked out on my job. I thought, I don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s not relevant to who I am.

So, Nitin threw himself into composing. Since childhood, he had mastered guitar and keyboards. In his youth he tried and listened to many styles: punk, jazz, rock, hip-hop, flamenco, blues, classic Indian music and soundtracks. All this, of course, was combined later in his solo works.

Nitin Sawney

“If you speak different languages you don’t think about keeping them in your head, they’re just there. I was very lucky to have lots of training in different kinds of music when I was young. I guess all of that is part of my vocabulary. I don’t ever think about it too consciously, which I’m happy about. I don’t ever think, I’ve got to put in something Indian here, or some flamenco. That’s my palette of sound, and I find it all interesting. I don’t know why or how, but I feel a very strong compulsion to make music in the way that I do. I can’t very easily explain things afterwards.”

From the booklet: “From the 1947 partition of India to the 60s migration of our parents, we are the product of mass movement—this is the story of Migration: departure, arrival, adaptation, fusion. From the anguish, turmoil and pain of our parents’ history comes the responsibility to build our own dreams. This is the soundtrack to our journey.”

The 30-year-old musician’s second concept album has poems about spring (Tell the Spring air to pass quickly. I am a victim of love. My heart may miss a beat), about hope sung by Natasha Atlas (Oh my hope, oh my desire. Oh my Universe, you are my love, my life, my beloved. You are my cure, my love. You are the air I breathe. Without you I cannot live), about the smile and dreams in the eyes of a child in an Indian market place, about the triumph of life in the endless flow of the river, about resistance to British nationalists, and, after the song about early feelings, about Awareness: “The end of our parents’ journey and the beginning of our aspirations, Awareness take us back to the 90s with a nostalgic glance over our shoulder. Be aware of who you are—your history is what makes you strong.” Nitin Sawhney, 1995